Review: Nation

By John Nathan, November 26, 2009

The latest National Theatre Christmas show to have no mention of Christmas and to question religion is Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel Nation.

It is set in a parallel world with a British Empire and where southern seas can rise into tsunamis. One wave nearly wipes out an island’s population and throws together the only survivor, a black boy called Mau (Gary Carr) and the white ship-wrecked, 13-year-old aristocratic Ermintrude (Emily Taaffe) from Wiltshire.


Henry Goodman: I wanted to play this Jew-hater

By Henry Goodman, November 19, 2009

I am appearing in a new play by Timberlake Wertenbaker called The Line. It is about the famous 19th-century French painter Edgar Degas, whom I try to bring to life.

Although the play, which opened in London on Wednesday, focuses on Degas’s relationship with the painter Suzanne Valadon, it also exposes the complexity of the man himself. And among his prime characteristics, Degas was unquestionably anti-Jewish.


Review: The Habit of Art

By John Nathan, November 19, 2009

Highly anticipated does not say it. But how else to describe national treasure Alan Bennett turning his attention to the crown jewels of 20th century British art, WH Auden and Benjamin Britten?


A playhouse that's so Jewish, it's like going to synagogue

By John Nathan, November 12, 2009

It is a minor miracle that for 35 years, a former mortuary in Hampstead has somehow avoided the clutches of property developers and has instead served the people of north-west London as a theatre.

It is no thanks to the Arts Council, which gives no subsidy, and no thanks to the National Lottery, which provides no funding. Give plenty of thanks though to Brian Daniels who, 12 years ago, sunk his private pension fund into the 84-seat venue known as the New End and has somehow managed to keep it going ever since.


Review: Pains of Youth

By John Nathan, November 12, 2009

There is much in Ferdinand Bruckner’s play that is fascinating. And there is very little in Katie Mitchell’s production that is less than brilliant. So why a reserved three stars instead of an emphatic five?

There are some physical responses to a show, that whatever its merits, cannot be denied. For instance, no matter how offensive or unfashionable a comedy may be, if you laugh, it is funny.


Review: Mrs Klein

By John Nathan, November 5, 2009

I read somewhere that psychiatrists are more often attracted to their subject by their own condition than those of other people. And Nicholas Wright’s 1988 play suggests there is nothing more dysfunctional than a family of quacks.

His heroine is the real-life pioneering Jewish child psychiatrist Melanie Klein, and the play explores the effect on a mother-child relationship when maternal love is replaced by scientific curiosity.


Making drama out of a crisis

By Alex Kasriel, November 5, 2009

In a backroom at north London’s Tricycle Theatre, eight people are rehearsing a piece of theatre called The Committee. The writing playfully looks at what happens in an imaginary student union when representatives from different religious societies organise a multicultural day.


Review: What Fatima Did…

By John Nathan, October 28, 2009

The Hampstead Theatre is fizzing with an energy all too rarely seen at this venue in recent times. The reason? Twenty-one-year-old Atiha Sen Gupta, the youngest playwright to make a debut on the Hampstead’s stage.


Review: Twelfth Night

By John Nathan, October 28, 2009

So Richard Wilson, known to millions as curmudgeonly pensioner Victor Meldrew, is making his RSC debut as Shakespeare’s party pooper, the curmudgeonly steward Malvolio.

Just as he did with Hamlet and David Tennant, director Gregory Doran has again brought together the perfect marriage of actor and character — or so it seems.


Review: Endgame

By John Nathan, October 22, 2009

It was going to be Richard Briers and Adrian Scarborough. Fine actors though they are, it is, I suspect, our good fortune that Mark Rylance and director Simon McBurney have taken on the roles of the chair-bound Hamm and the slave Clov in Samuel Beckett’s desolate play.

McBurney has saddled himself with a reputation for devising mind-expanding shows with a revelatory brilliance. But here the text is the thing and his production stays loyal to both Beckett’s dialogue and stage direction.